Criteria for a Short Story

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Many years ago(1988), I clearly remember being taught that Poe had very definite ideas about the creation and elements of the short story. One such idea was that the short story genre should be read in a single night's sitting. Is my failing memory correct, or have I attributed this incorrectly. Also, if you could inform me of any other criteria that Poe believed about the short story, I'd be greatly appreciative!!! Randy Garland "I assure that my personal tragedies will not affect my ability to do good hair!"

-- Anonymous, January 31, 2004

Answers

Sounds as if you're thinking of Poe's "Philosophy of Composition":

"If any literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression for, if two sittings be required, the affairs of the world interfere, and every thing like totality is at once destroyed."

This essay is famous for Poe's discussing the unity of effect. More or less, that's choosing one crucial moment of the work, then building the rest of the story or poem around it. Though "Phil. Comp." uses "The Raven" as an example, its ideas apply to short stories as well as poetry.

Best of luck,

You can read the whole essay at: http://eapoe.org/works/essays/philcmpb.htm

-- Anonymous, February 05, 2004


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